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banner Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 01:08 GMT 02:08 UK
Champagne on ice
Liverpool lift the Uefa Cup in Dortmund
Liverpool lift the Uefa Cup in Dortmund
BBC Sport Online's Stuart Roach reports from Dortmund

Still the champagne remains on ice.

Despite becoming, in breathtaking circumstances, the first English club to land a cup treble in one season, Gerard Houllier's side must continue to wait for their celebration party.

Even then, it is a case of all or nothing for these mighty Reds, who have pocketed the Worthington Cup, FA Cup and now, dramatically, the Uefa Cup in an all-conquering cup season.

Yet failure to beat Charlton in what might - but for last week's Premiership slip-up against Chelsea - have otherwise been an end-of-season friendly, would leave Houllier's side with the bitter aftertaste of defeat in a remarkable season.

Houllier is one of only two genuine contenders for the Premiership manager of the season award, along with Ipswich's George Burley.

Jordi Cruyff's header takes the game to extra time
Jordi Cruyff's header in the final minute of normal time
But the cup finals - and, make no mistake, Charlton on Saturday is a cup final, have come so thick and fast that the party has never been able to happen.

Should Liverpool take three points from The Valley, then the collective popping of corks would be heard from south east London to Merseyside at around 4.45pm on Saturday.

Each individual cup final win has been worthy of a major celebration in its own right - but none more so than the spectacular victory over Alaves.

For a while, it seemed as though that victory was going to arrive with embarrassing ease. When Alaves kicked off following Markus Babbel's third-minute opener, they must have just been pleased to touch the ball.

But, after falling two down to Steven Gerrard's fine strike, they responded to produce one of the most remarkable European finals of all time, in what was their first year of competition.

They came back twice in spectacular fashion, Gary McAllister's penalty and an expertly taken Robbie Fowler goal the fillings in a Spanish omelette which appeared to have left Liverpool with egg on their faces.

But Liverpool simply refused to lie down, and when Alaves captain Antonio Karmona became the second Spanish player to see red three minutes from the time, you sensed the Alaves adventure might finally be over.


From the moment Turkish side Gaziantepspor celebrated the first round draw by declaring they were playing the weakest team in the competition, Alaves have been proving people wrong.

They did it once more, though they ultimately fell agonisingly short of their prize.

For Liverpool, their never-say-die spirit would have been breathtaking, had anyone any breath left in them.

Jordi Cruyff had predicted this could be one of the most boring finals of all time.

But then, didn't he once believe that Manchester United was a good move for him?

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